In this guest post Clare and Grant Morton update us on the shorebird work they’re doing in and around the world-famous shorebird site of Broome in Western Australia. Clare’s particular interest is monitoring and protecting the nests of the birds nesting along the beaches, and she also keeps a close look-out for flagged/banded shorebirds which are right now returning from their northern breeding-grounds.


September Update from Roebuck Bay
Clare and Grant Morton

Sadly, we have had all of the Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris eggs predated that were mentioned in a previous report. There are cat prints everywhere at Coconut Wells and a local man told me he had seen two cats recently. Only 11 eggs out of 62 laid last year even hatched, so not too surprising. Despite this, C8, one of our flagged birds, has decided to give it another go and laid one egg so far. It is in quite an open area, but this does not seem to prevent the predation of eggs here.

C8 has only been at Coconut Wells since late 2008 & only attempted to breed in 2009. It was first banded in early 2004 as a first year bird and spent time at Bush Point in the large flock before moving to Coconut Wells in 2008. It may well have started out from there.



Another pair have laid two eggs on a cliff that has recently sustained a lot of damage on our high tides. They were some of the highest tides for the year & the beach has become quite a hard ride on the bike as there are hundreds of small sandstone rocks exposed…a bit more concentration required!



This tiny black dot on top of one of the tallest rocky outcrops on Cable Beach is the second attempt by the Oystercatcher pair that walk their day old chicks to Gantheaume Point reef. It is rather close to a walkway from Minyirr Park & I was rather upset to see two teenage boys throwing rocks at the bird this week. However, it appears to be coping well & tried it’s best to fight back. They did not see the eggs, so let’s hope they have better luck this time.



On Thursday, after seeing two King Island engraved flagged Ruddy Turnstone in Roebuck Bay I came across a South Australian engraved flagged Ruddy Turnstone on Cable Beach. I had a problem…no telescope with me! Much to the amusement of the other beachgoers I spent close to an hour crawling around (sore knees have now recovered!) after it trying to get the best light to read the flag with my binoculars. It really didn’t care about me, as it was too busy looking for food. Black writing on orange is not as easy as black writing on yellow….but I got to read the three letters on the flag! I had called on Adrian Boyle for assistance, but he was not close by….thankfully when he returned to town (just after I had read the flag!) he was able to come down & get some good photos of this bird. I think it is the first engraved flagged South Australian Ruddy Turnstone known to have visited Broome. Here’s my rather dodgy photo showing the orange engraved flag on the upper leg & the yellow flag on the lower leg….the combination for South Australia.



I could hardly believe it yesterday when I cycled up the coast to Willie Creek south side & I came across another engraved flagged Ruddy Turnstone from King Island at Coconut Wells….the engraved orange flag on the upper leg & the blue flag on the lower leg is their combination. It was oblivious to a cyclist & let me read the flag quite easily (no telescope, but close enough to read easily with binoculars) & it is not one that has been seen in Roebuck Bay this week! It’s the year for Ruddy Turnstones from interstate to be seen here in Broome!



Next week we have a huge challenge, as we are hoping to retrieve data from the Greater Sand Plovers that were given tiny geolocators on their flags in March this year. Eleven of the 30 have been seen in the Bay in recent weeks & hopefully we can find out where they have been when we retrieve the data.


For those of you interested in the threats to our other migratory shorebirds you should go to:

  • Global Flyway Network
  • If you read the Final Bohai report 2010 (which is linked to in the left sidebar under ‘Read Our Reports’ ) you will realise why we are so concerned about the birds of Roebuck Bay. Over recent days we have sighted several birds that were last seen going north in April & May towards Korea & China and it is encouraging to see them back, but what of their future…?



Broome Bird Observatory

Broome Bird Observatory is located on the north-west coast of Australia on the shores of Roebuck Bay: just 25 kilometres east of the town of Broome and some 2,400 road kilometres north of Perth.

The Broome region is regarded as the most significant site in Australia for shorebirds as well as being of high signifcance among other locations for shorebirds across the world. Roebuck Bay has the greatest diversity of shorebird species of any site on the planet and around 150,000 of these birds visit annually. The magnificent coastal scenery of Roebuck Bay provides a fitting backdrop for the birds and is a stunning attraction in its own right.

Broome Bird Observatory was established in 1988 by Birds Australia (Australia’s peak scientific and recreational birding organisation) as a research and education facility. Its principle aim is to work for the conservation of migratory shorebirds which visit Roebuck Bay along with the many endemic birds of Broome.


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